You need to picture the start. Stepping off the bus, walking towards the South Western most point of Australia, it hailed. A thousand competitors cowering for cover and sharing the little body heat that comes from near naked tanned bodies covered in lycra. Surrounded by rocky coastline and on a big granite outcrop that divides the meeting place of two wild oceans, we had a long day ahead of us and it seemed that we were a very very long way away from any kind of real civilization. Now this is adventure racing!
In among the thousand and a half other competitors at the start line was Ben and his team mate Kev and another of my new Adventure racing mates, Phil. You might recall Ben from his stellar performance in a two man three man team for the Mainpeak Multisport. Apparently not happy with my performance on the bike he was trying out a new team mate, three time Ironman and all round superathlete and good guy – Kiwi Kev. Phil had backed up after his outstanding results in the Mainpeak Multi and was hoping to go under 5 hours solo.
The latest in my year of Rapid Ascent adventures as the Banzai Adventurer, Anaconda Augusta is the largest one day adventure race on Earth. It is pretty easy to understand why. The course is set in one of the most spectacular places in Australia. The South West. Not just in the South West though, actually on the southern most westerly point, near the seaside town of Augusta. The race starts (outside the safety barriers) at the foot of the Lighthouse. The first 30 minutes of the 14 km run heads North along the Western Australian coast, an exhilarating rock hopping, trail blazing, jumping, falling scramble through the granite gardens. Then winding through a series of trails down to the Southern coast and along the beach to the first transition, 14 km later.
I didn’t get any video of the start, but this is the clip from last year. You get the idea.
(Now here’s a little tip: If you are growing some rather healthy looking fruitless tomato plants along the run course down near Augusta, the gig’s up. About a thousand runners ran through your crop mate, find a new spot).
I had read all the chat online about how to put on a wetsuit over sweaty legs and I was surprised when it went on quickly and without any dramas at all. Stepping through the legs with plastic bags on my feet did the trick. The 1.9 km swim follows the coast inside a shallow reef to the bar at the rivermouth. I imagine those a little closer to the front would not have seen the numbers and variety of fish that I say along the swim. A short run across the bar to the caravan park and you arrive at the kayak transition.
Having started a full half hour behind me I thought that Kev might be just behind me at this transition so wasn’t at all surprised when I caught sight of Ben yelling something from the other end of the transition. Not overly good at lip reading I did at least understand “I’m going to catch you Evans!! Paddle….. Paddle like the wind!!!!!! Here I come!!!!!!” Outstanding support. Speaking of support. The strongest and most well prepared members of Kev and Bens team were their wives, Jen and Tanis. At each transition they took outstanding care of me as I struggled to change clothes, eat, drink and get on my way.
One of the great things about Rapid Ascent events, is that they arrange for the naming sponsor of the Kayak leg to provide hire boats. As luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to get a very stable, very very stable kayak for this paddle. Which turned out to be flat and windy. Perfect conditions for me and my barge of a kayak to keep ahead of Ben. The 15 km paddle took us out of the river mouth and almost back to the start of the run before turning for home and the transition to the bike. What a sight, just as I headed out of the river mouth, I was greeted by a mob of 5 dolphins. It was a pretty humbling moment to pause for a while, which I did, and consider how lucky we all were to be racing in such an amazing part of the country. I almost felt sorry for those at the front of the pack (paddling lighter, faster boats) who had probably missed it. That wore off pretty quickly though as I realised that no matter how hard I paddled my kayak (by now I had named it “shit bloody fat arse cow dog barge”) I just wasn’t going very fast at all… up or down wind.
The results say I passed someone on the paddle. I’m not sure about that. I felt really good after the run and swim and now was starting to struggle as everyone else seemed to be going much much faster than me. I quickly changed my expectations to go from top 1/3 to not last. I kept reminding myself of how much fun I was having. Eventually Ben came flying past, struggling to contain his laughter as he saw the look on my face. At least I didn’t fall off.
Finally the Kayak paddle was over and I was back in transition for the mountain bike ride. This, I was looking forward to.
Rule number 1 in Adventure Racing: Don’t get lost. Ever.
I came into transition and immediately lost all memory of where my gear was parked. I must have looked pretty funny. Wandering around looking for my bike. Eventually someone grabbed me and pointed to the area where the solos were set up. Sheepishly I wandered over and collected my thoughts. Ate, drank, changed and took off on the bike.
The bike leg is undulating and takes in some great fire track runs around the local ridgelines. Not overly challenging, but fast and very much fun. Especially the big puddle of black goo at about 25 km. The locals were out in force to see who was brave enough to have a crack at getting through. Oh… I was brave enough. Nearly made it too. The other surprise of the bike leg was the local BMX track. What a hoot!
Before too long the bike leg was over and all that was left was the 2 km run to the finish. Coming into transition again, I got lost again, and had to pick a path through 3 rows of bikes to find my gear.
The final run was good, I felt a lot stronger than a lot of people around me looked so I picked up quite a few spots on the run to the finish. Waiting at the finish was most of the town of Augusta and Ben, Kev, Tanis and Jen. All yelling for me and cheering.
I finished, only an hour and a half behind Phil, an hour behind Ben and Kev. All up, I was suitably chuffed with myself for doing as well as I did.
Now.. before I started this adventure of mine, I did Anaconda Lorne. I thought it was one of the toughest things I had done. It’s on again in a little over 3 weeks. I’ll be back, this time with some fitness and some technique. I am so looking forward to it.
If you have ever though of having a go at Adventure racing, then get along to this, the final of the 3 race national series in Lorne. There really is no excuse for not having a go now there are so many options to participate. You can do the mini – a mid length course on the Saturday, bring the kids to do the Junior survivor as well on Saturday, you could even team up with a few mates from work to do the Anaconda Adventure Race on Sunday in relay. Or even just come down to support your wife, girlfriend, mother, sister or aunty as they complete the Sunday race solo. Either way, keep your eye out, I’ll be there, somewhere mid pack, grinning from ear to ear.
- CAC Attack! (team-virtus.com)